Two-time Prometheus winner James Hogan: The long-lost interview

By Michael Grossberg

James P. Hogan (Creative Commons license)

Two-time Prometheus winner James P. Hogan died in 2010, but his ideas, words and novels live on.

For the first time in print, here is the wide-ranging, full-fledged uncut interview (recently rediscovered among some boxes of papers and memorabilia) that Hogan gave in 2001 to LFS co-founder Michael Grossberg.

Just a small fraction of that interview appeared in a local newspaper on the eve of Hogan’s appearance as a 2001 guest of honor at Marcon, Ohio’s oldest and largest science fiction and fantasy convention.

For the sake of posterity and as a reader’s guide to the late great sf author, here is the first part of that interview:

Q: Working for years as an electrical engineer and digital-information executive before you decided to try tackling fiction, how did you begin to learn all the skills needed to write Inherit the Stars, you first science fiction novel?

A: Writing a first novel is a long uphill experience. It takes years to find your way. I taught myself computing and I taught myself writing.

I try to capture what I would find captivating and interesting and keep me reading, if I were a reader.

Q: Working at Digital without any knowledge or contacts within the publishing or sf field, how hard was it to find a publisher and an editor for your first novel?

A: I had no idea whether it was publishable.
Honeywell and IBM were very formal structured companies, but Digital people came in to work with T-shirts and guitars. It was a loose laid-back company with some brilliant people. Asking around the company, I tried to find someone who had connections with publishing and the science-fiction field. I found a fellow employee Ashley Grayson in Maynard, Massachusetts. He was an sf buff. He told me that he went to these strange things called conventions.

Q: So where was your first sf-con experience?
A: I registered to attend with Grayson the next sf con on Cape Cod.
I showed up with a copy of the Inherit the Stars manuscript in my suitcase, then I went back to England.

How green I was… I forgot all about it.

Q: Then what happened?
A: I received a letter from Judy-Lynn Del Rey, who said she wanted to publish the novel and offered me a contract.
That was a big boost.

Q: Once Inherit the Stars was published, it received good reviews, but that’s often not enough to make a book a bestseller. How did most fans discover a novel written by an unknown newbie?

A: A groundswell of interest began building. Mail started coming in from readers, but also from scientific professionals. Isaac Asimov sent me a fan letter. So did Carl Sagan, and Bevan French, then director of NASA’s lunar program.

Judy didn’t just run Del Rey SF. She made sure that her writers and their works were brought to the attention of such people.

She had charisma. Physically she was small, but she made up for it with her intelligence, charisma and personality.


Q: Inherit the Stars, completed in 1976 and published in 1977 by Judy-Lynn Del Rey at Ballantine Books, revolves around paleontologists, physicists, biologists, linguists and other scientists trying to solve an incredible mystery: the discovery on the moon of a 50,000-year-old human skeleton dressed in a spacesuit. How did you come up with that premise and story?

A: I envisioned Inherit the Stars as a novel, straight away. I just wrote what I thought would please me…. A lot of people liked the novel because it was positive, constructive and creative – humans fighting an intellectual battle against ignorance.

Every story had to have tension, but there wasn’t a bad guy in Inherit the Stars. In the movies, the problem has to be physical and the solution has to be violent. But the most exciting things, to my mind, didn’t involve violence.

Knowledge is a mind-altering drug. My book’s theme is a reminder that acquiring knowledge is still one of the greatest human adventures.

Note: Stay tuned to the Prometheus Blog for further excerpts from this previously unpublished interview with Hogan.

 


IF YOU WANT TO KNOW MORE:

* Prometheus winners: For the full list of Prometheus winners, finalists and nominees – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website, which now includes convenient links to the full set of published appreciation-reviews of past winners.

* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” an essay in the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the evolution of the modern genre.

Watch  videos of past Prometheus Awards ceremonies, Libertarian Futurist Society panel discussions with noted sf authors and leading libertarian writers, and other LFS programs on the Prometheus Blog’s Video page.

Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.

Libertarian futurists believe that culture matters! We understand that the arts and literature can be vital, and in some ways even more powerful than politics in the long run, by sparking innovation, better ideas, positive social change, and mutual respect for each other’s rights and differences.

 

 

Published by

Michael Grossberg

Michael Grossberg, who founded the LFS in 1982 to help sustain the Prometheus Awards, has been an arts critic, speaker and award-winning journalist for five decades. Michael has won Ohio SPJ awards for Best Critic in Ohio and Best Arts Reporting (seven times). He's written for Reason, Libertarian Review and Backstage weekly; helped lead the American Theatre Critics Association for two decades; and has contributed to six books, including critical essays for the annual Best Plays Theatre Yearbook and an afterword for J. Neil Schulman's novel The Rainbow Cadenza. Among books he recommends from a libertarian-futurist perspective: Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist & How Innovation Works, David Boaz's The Libertarian Mind and Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.

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